Sacred Space of Hospitality, Growth, Retreat & Renewal

 

In 1953 the Oblates of Mary Immaculate opened Star of the North Retreat Center to provide spiritual retreats, workshops and seminars for persons seeking spiritual renewal in their lives. The Oblates are a missionary order of the Roman Catholic Christian tradition committed to walking with and serving alongside the poor. Their houses and places of retreat offer formation in spirituality, private retreat for personal renewal, and growth in learning about justice, peace, and integrity of creation. They also offer hospitality for groups seeking an alternative and affordable place to gather for their meetings, conferences, and retreats. The Star of the North serves the community at large and was built to accommodate live-in retreats and workshops. There are 57 bedrooms for overnight accommodation, dining facilities for 86, a private chapel, two large conference rooms, and several smaller meeting rooms. Throughout the years, people from all over western Canada have come to the Star for their retreat and faith based needs . On an annual basis, Star of the North has served on average 6000 people and 300 events. We welcome your organization, group or church community to enjoy the unique beauty and excellent service at the Star of the North. We invite you to consider your own personal spiritual needs by browsing our programs and registering soon.

Star of the North Retreat Centre - Mission Hill History

Hidden in the center of land and buildings that occupy Mission Hill, St. Albert, on property shared by the Edmonton Archdiocese and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Lacombe Canada, stands a sacred oasis of hospitality and spiritual renewal - Star of the North Retreat House. The Star, as it has come to be known, is steeped in and surrounded by history. On the south side, it neighbours St. Vital Grandin house, home to Bishop Grandin, early pioneer of St. Albert. Next to Vital Grandin, stands the oldest building in St. Albert, the Father Lacombe Chapel, where every summer tourists and visitors are invited to experience the earliest years of the St. Albert settlement. To the west lies the church, behind which are the outdoor shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, and a beautiful expanse of a community garden. To the north we have the St. Albert Parish cemetery and to the east, plenty of land and Foyer Grandin where elder Oblates continue to live and pray.

Opened in 1953, Star of the North was built to house ‘closed, preached retreats’ that had been taking place in the Edmonton area for some three years prior. These retreats were called ‘closed’ because they were organized by invitation for the Catholic Christian population. Up to that time, the Grey Nuns and the Oblates of then Grandin Province of Alberta, were leading closed retreats from place to place for vocation discernment and for lay professionals of the Edmonton area. At a certain point in time, Fr. Ozias Fournier, Provincial of the Oblates for Alberta “launched the movement of a new building solely for the benefit of the closed retreats. The construction of the retreat house started under the supervision of Father Jean Patoine, O.M.I., editor of “La Survivance” of Edmonton. The building could accommodate 25 retreatants.” .

In 1957, Fr. Fournier and his team of Oblates plan for and carry out building an extension to the retreat house for an additional 25 bedrooms, a lounge area and more comfortable living quarters for the priests of the time. This means moving the chapel from one end of the building to the place it is now situated at the other end next to the cemetery. The following 30 years of retreat ministry are mostly in this model of ‘closed preached retreats’ “for lawyers, doctors, handicapped persons, high-school students, married couples, religious orders and single persons.” Retreat ministry at Star of the North flourished for “Catholic and Protestant alike.” In 1961, a journalist for the Edmonton Journal, Eddie Keen, says further, “Anglican ministers have used the house for annual retreats three time.” A tradition of growing ecumenism and open hospitality would continue throughout the years.

The retreat house began as a ministry of the Oblates that was administered by Oblates, often with several Oblates on staff, until 1990. After that time, they hired their first lay religious sister, Sr. Geraldine Kelly, followed by the Star’s first lay director Mrs. Sandra Prather. Structures changed as well. From entirely Oblate administration, the Star shifted through to an Advisory board and then a Board of Directors with bylaws being revised along the way. More significantly perhaps, The Star of the North underwent a transformation of spirit, from a house for closed retreats, to a house for spiritual seekers from all walks of life. Programs invited people to experience a vast array of retreat days and workshops dealing with everything from wholistic spirituality of body, mind and spirit to integration of psychology and spirituality, to spirituality and art, and so much more. Maintaining a Catholic and Oblate soul, the Star reached out to extend a welcome to anyone with a sincere heart seeking to be renewed spiritually with programs such as “R&R Days” i.e. Rest and Renewal days, Soul Writing, Twilight Reflections on Gospel themes, Iconography, and working with dreams. The 1990’s through the new millennium was full of growth and development for creating programs to meet the needs, challenges and changes of the times.

Alongside these programs sponsored by The Star of the North, the Star hosted groups who sought sacred space to have their events, meetings, retreats, workshops, seminars and strategic planning days. Many Christian denominations have grown to make the Star their second home for retreats. The United Church of Canada, the Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Ukrainian Orthodox, Pentecostal, and others have brought and continue to bring their gatherings to the Star of the North. To keep up with the growing demand for use of the facility, ongoing care was attended to in both the areas of facility maintenance and renovations. To keep up with these needs, annual fundraisers became essential. The annual Starfest Dinner and Auction began on the initiative of Sr. Geraldine Kelly in the early ‘90’s and has been maintained by successive Executive Directors Sandra Prather and Lucie Leduc. What started in the St. Albert church basement quickly grew to the larger venue of the Italian Cultural Centre. A second annual fundraiser taken on by the Star was the City of St. Albert Roy Financial Mayor’s Walk. Moneys raised through fundraising has supported capital and maintenance projects, like replacing windows, furnaces, and renovating rooms.

Moving Forward in Hope

By the year 2010, and still under the leadership of Sandra Prather, the direction of the Star took on an additional focus for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. In May of 2012, and after twenty-one years as Executive Director of the Star, Sandra Prather retired. The Board hired Lucie Leduc to lead the Star into the future. She maintains many of the practices instituted by the former Director and after three years of leadership is gradually making room for a vision that along with offering programs that address justice, peace, and the environment will include an additional focus for creating a Culture of Encounter at The Star. The past thirty years were a significant departure from the first thirty years of the Star’s history. The next thirty years challenge the Star to grow new patrons, to meet new needs and demands, and to lead spiritual renewal from a creative vision of fostering a Culture of Encounter and a vision of “Awaken to Spirit - Transform the World”.

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